Census Records


The State Historical Society has one of the largest census records collections in the Midwest. Housed with the Newspaper Collection, this microfilm collection includes data from forty-eight states, with Missouri census schedules dating from 1830 to 1880 and 1900 through 1930, all available film for most other states through 1880, and the 1900 census of Arkansas, Kansas, Oregon and Indian Territory.

Researchers should remember that census records often contain misspellings, inaccuracies and omissions.


The Society has composite indexes to the Missouri censuses of 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860 and 1870; individual indexes to each Missouri county for 1840 and 1850; indexes to some Missouri counties for other census years; and indexes to many early censuses of other states. The Society has microfilm copies of the Soundexes for the 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920 censuses of Missouri.

Borrowing Census through Interlibrary Loan

Residents of Missouri may borrow microfilm of federal census records through 1880 from the Society on interlibrary loan through public or college libraries. State census microfilm, Soundexes, and other indexes may not be borrowed.

  • Federal Agricultural Census
  • Federal Population Census
  • Federal Industrial Census
  • Missouri State Census

Researchers often overlook the U.S. Census Bureau's nineteenth century agriculture census; however it contains a wealth of information pertaining to individual farmers' businesses. The Society's Newspaper library holds the microfilm copies of Missouri's agricultural censuses. The agriculture census schedules usually given to all free persons who produced goods valued at $100 or more, but census-takers often overlooked this rule, allowing farmers producing good of lesser value to also provide information.

The census offers an array of data concerning an individual farmer's operation and production, including the value and acreage of the farm and whether it was owned or rented. It also provides details about the number of livestock owned, production of grain and other crops, and use of machinery. Each category is split into subdivisions; for instance, the livestock category is subdivided into horses, dairy and non-dairy cows, swine, and sheep.

Searching the agriculture census schedules is similar to searching the population schedules. Both are arranged by county and township, and the family number found in the population census corresponds to the family number in the agriculture census.

The agriculture census can be useful for both historical and genealogical researchers. For historians, it provides details about farming trends, types of produce and livestock, and the economic status of farmers. A genealogist can potentially find detailed accounts of an ancestor's farming operation. Regardless of one's research goals, the census provides insight into mid and late-nineteenth-century agricultural practices and economy.

The census of the United States has been taken by the federal government every ten years beginning in 1790. The National Archives in Washington, D.C. has microfilmed many of the original population schedules from 1790 to 1930. The State Historical Society of Missouri has a large collection of these microfilms: Missouri, 1830-1880, 1900-1930; all available film for most other states through 1880; and the 1900 census of Arkansas, Kansas, Oregon and Indian Territory.

The 1890 census was destroyed by fire.

The Society has the special Union Veteran schedule of 1890 for Missouri and Kentucky. This schedule lists living Union veterans of the Civil War or their widows.

Information found in Federal Population Censuses

Before 1850

Names the heads of households, but other persons are not named, only enumerated by sex in age groups.

Beginning in 1850

Names of all free persons are given, with age, sex, color, occupation, value of property, and birthplace (state or country).

Beginning in 1880

Also gives the birthplace (state or country) of the mother and father of each person.

One of the lesser-known censuses in the Society's collection is the federal decennial industrial census of Missouri, 1850 to 1880. Although not as valuable to genealogical researchers as the population census, the information in the industrial schedules has important uses for researchers studying economic and sociological trends from the mid-to late nineteenth century.

Something of a precursor to the economic census currently used by the U.S. Census Bureau, the industrial, or Products of Industry, census gathered information about individuals or companies that produced a minimum of $500 worth of goods per year. Aside from the urban centers, most Missouri towns had little industrial output during much of the nineteenth century. Before the advent of the large-scale factory, this census measured the basic human dimension of industry. For example, the workshop of a cobbler or a blacksmith was included as an individual entity.

Like the population schedules, the industrial schedules are arranged by county, then by townships or other divisions within each county. In addition to the name of the individual company and the type of businesses or product manufactured, census takers recorded power sources, machinery descriptions, the average number of employees of each sex and wages paid, materials used, and kinds, quantities, and values of production. The amount and type of information increased as the century passed.

The industrial census depicts a time of industrial growth, when much of the work was performed by hand and on a human scale, before the advent of numerous large-scale factories within the state. There are few better tools for assessing Missouri's economic growth in this era than the industrial census.

The Territory of Missouri took censuses in 1814, 1817, and 1819. The State of Missouri took censuses in 1821, 1824, every four years through 1868 and in 1876, the last year. Most of these Territorial and State Censuses no longer exist. Listed below are copies currently available.

At the State Historical Society of Missouri:

  • 1817 - St. Charles Territorial Censuses (transcription)
  • 1819 - St. Charles Territorial Censuses (transcription)
  • 1840 - Rives County (transcription)
  • 1844 - Callaway County (microfilm), Marion County (transcription)
  • 1852 - St. Charles County (transcription)
  • 1864 - Gasconade County (transcription)
  • 1868 - Cape Girardeau, Ste. Genevieve, and Webster counties (all microfilm)
  • 1876 - Benton, Callaway, Cape Girardeau, Christian, Greene, Holt, Howard, McDonald, Montgomery, Osage, Phelps, Reynolds, St. Francois counties (all microfilm) Butler, Iron and Texas counties (transcriptions).

At the Missouri State Archives:

  • 1840 - New Madrid, Newton, Pike, Randolph, Ray, Rives (later Henry), Shelby, Stoddard and Warren counties (all transcriptions)
  • 1844 - Callaway County (microfilm); Greene County (transcription)
  • 1868 - Cape Girardeau County (microfilm)